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Ford S-max Test Drive Review

Date: 27 April 2015   |   Author:

Category: MPV
P11D price: £28,445
Key rival: Seat Alhambra
On sale: August 2015
Equipment: Satnav, DAB radio, 17-inch alloys, cruise control, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, LED running lights, keyless entry, privacy glass
Engines: Petrol: 160hp 1.5-litre, 240hp 2.0-litre Diesel: 120hp/150hp/180hp/210hp 2.0-litre
Trims: Zetec, Titanium, Titanium Sport
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic

Ford created its own little niche with the launch of the S-max in 2006; the stylish full seven-seater that doesn't look like an ox on wheels.

And nine years later, there's still no real rival, with the only other major large MPVs being the VW Sharan, Seat Alhambra and potentially soon-to-be-departed Chrysler Grand Voyager that are more of a rival for the S-max's Galaxy sibling.

A swathe new look and more efficient engines - taking the S-max below the 130g/km capital allowance point for the first time - are the key points, along with increased adoption of the latest safety and convenience technology. As Ford put it, the recipe for the new car is flexibility, technology, premium styling, fun to drive and safety.

A high percentage of S-max sales are the higher trim levels, fuelled at least in part by the fact that there's no premium brand to move up to in the large MPV category, so people choose the higher trims instead - 40% of buyers take the mid Titanium spec, while another 30% take the higher Titanium Sport, compared with 34% and 12% respectively for the smaller C-max range.

Practicality is improved with the new model thanks to features such as the five individual rear seats each individually folding at the touch of a button in the boot, and there is an all-wheel drive version of the 150hp and 180hp diesels that adds 10g/km and £1500.

The S-max goes up by around £1235 from old model to new, though Ford claims residual value improvements will outweigh the cost rises. The engine line-up sees the 150hp and 180hp diesels take 77% of volume, just about in favour of the lower-powered model, and both have the same 129g/km emissions figure, 10g/km lower than the best the first S-max could manage. The 180hp version was the only diesel available to drive at Ford'a launch event, and it's a strong, powerful and refined unit, aided by a solid and reassuring feel to the gear change.

All models now get the Sync2 voice control infotainment system, complete with eight-inch touchscreen control, and extra equipment on the Zetec model also includes DAB radio, power fold mirrors, hill launch assist and a space saver spare wheel mounted underneath the car so it's accessible even with a full boot. Titanium models add satnav, keyless entry and various safety systems, while Titanium Sport includes sports styling cues, sports suspension and heated front seats.  

Interior quality is very good, though the centre console is a little lacking in character, dominated by a large audio volume control dial that looks as though it should have more functionality than simply volume. But the touchscreen system, backed up by a reduced button count, successfully manages all the control functions.

The S-max has built a reputation by being un-MPV-like to drive, handling more like a sprightly passenger car than people carrier, and the new model's ride and handling keeps that reputation intact. The steering, especially with the optional damping system, isn't quite up with the rest of the S-max's quality, feeling too artificial and to weighted towards trying to centre the wheel, making it unduly heavy on longer sweeping bends.

Though we're still waiting for whole life costs to be finalised, Ford claims an RV increase of in excess of £1800, and the cut in emissions should also help. But the new S-max builds on the strengths and successes of its predecessor, standing as a clever, practical, stylish and fairly efficient large family vehicle. Which makes it a success.

Ford S-max 2.0 TDCi 180 Titanium

Model price range £24,545-£32,260
Fuel consumption 56.5mpg
CO2 (tax) 129g/km (23%)
BIK 20/40% per month £109/£218
Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls
Boot space min/max 285/2020 litres
Engine size/power 1997cc/180hp


Still in a class of its own as a stylish large and practical vehicle
  • Stylish
  • Good to drive and now under 130g/km in diesel form
  • Not cheap
  • Galaxy sibling and VW/Seat rivals are slightly more practical